The Mother I Didn't Know.

My dad was a tough man; he wasn’t mean, just not soft. My mom wasn’t exactly soft either, but she was at least accessible. My mom was the best. I would look at her writing “to whom it may concern” on my notes for school and thought there couldn’t be a smarter person in the world. She would put on her serious voice when talking on the phone, and it seemed she could convince anyone of anything. When I was younger, I remember longing for my mom when I would leave the house for too long. I’d fake sick at sleepovers to come home and be in her company. We’d stay awake until the sun was coming up, and there was nothing left to watch on TV. With three other sisters, it was times like these that I cherished. The tough times never felt that bad, because we always got through them. And I felt like she was the reason. She could do no wrong - or at least that’s what I thought. I loved my mom; so much that I didn’t think twice when my parents stopped sleeping in the same bed. I always figured my dad was emotionally detached, and that’s why my parents didn’t work. It just became normal - or maybe it always had been. They were never affectionate. I’d never seen my parents kiss; aside from maybe their wedding day. But that day was even far from my memory. “I’m working with your friend's dad!” She said excitedly. She worked overnights at Walmart. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but she always had stories that made it seem as if it was. My mom was always a night owl. So it wasn’t a shock when my mom would take my sister, with my dad at home in bed, to McDonald’s or whatever late-night place they could find that was open. These late-night trips didn’t seem out of the ordinary until my little sister came to me and began talking about “mommy’s friend.” We all thought she had made it up. My youngest sister had it the worst. At the age of 4, she was too young to know any better. One day, I came home to a fight between my parents. I had barely seen my parents speak to each other, let alone fight. She was having an affair with my friend’s dad. My friend’s dad, who happened to be in a relationship of his own. After a blur of a night, it was official. My dad was out of the house.

Just like that, with no talk of divorce. My parents were done. That’s when things got worse; my mom didn’t try to hide it anymore.

The woman who used to leave us lists of chores and do our homework vanished. The laundry piled up, and the dishes were never done. She slept all day, and I couldn’t count on her to be where she said she would anymore. She stopped caring, and it was obvious. I resented her for it. I became moody and mean. At 12 years old l, I couldn’t understand how she could be so selfish. All of her actions seemed perfectly orchestrated to destroy my life. I was vocal about it; maybe more vocal than I should’ve been. As I got older, the picture-perfect image I had of my mother slowly chipped away. “You’re pregnant!” I screamed, in the midst of one of our arguments. I don’t even remember what it started over, but I can remember the feeling when those words came out of my mouth. I stood with my back to my mom, unable to face her and accept what we all knew to be true. I can still feel the heat radiating over my body and the tears that I held back as I spit the statement out. Saying it out loud made it real. I was putting things together in my head, and the timeline was blurry. At 90 pounds, she was pregnant and a baby bump started showing quickly; while my dad was still living in the house. She denied it, of course. We didn’t speak of it again, but her stomach continued to grow. As each day passed and her pregnancy was more evident, I grew increasingly ashamed of my mom. I didn’t want anyone to know. I wished it wasn’t real. I wished she wasn’t having a baby with my friend’s father. I wished for the worst, and I hated her for it. It felt like she was single-handedly tearing my world apart. But I hated myself more. Fast forward years and several different boyfriends later, my mom has moved far away from us. She’s jumped to different towns in New Jersey, then Puerto Rico, and for now, Florida. Unfortunately, she took the only good thing that came out of so much misery - my little brother. I’m older now, and I think about the fact that she already had two kids at my age - something I can’t even fathom. I don’t need her like I thought I would. Although I don’t agree with a lot of her actions, to this day, I realize that it wasn’t her who changed; It was me. She has always been the same headstrong woman who made mistakes with no shame. I regret every word I said to her out of anger, and I regret letting our relationship get to where it is with only a few texts a week if that. I used to tell myself I only talked to her to see my brother, but I find myself thinking about her more and more as time goes on. I’m fine without her being in my life because that’s just our relationship. And maybe one day, it will change, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. Our relationship isn’t the typical mother-daughter dynamic, and I don’t have the typical father-daughter dynamic either. I do see my dad more frequently, and there’s no tension, but we aren’t close - and that’s okay. My parents are my parents, but that's not their only identity. I always accepted this with my dad. The past has made it difficult for me to accept the same for my mom. She was always imperfect, but when I was younger, I just saw her as my mom. As a child, I thought she was the best mom. As a teenager, I thought she was deplorable. As an adult, I know she’s only human.

Brianna Reisenwitz is a Legal Writer and Editor with a B.A. in English. Her fascination with human behavior has led her to focus on introspection in her writing. Brianna’s experiences as a child have largely shaped who she is as an adult, and she aspires to inspire others to embrace the past and grow - rather than run from it. When she isn’t writing, Brianna is engrossed in the lives of others in TV and movies. She is an avid believer in watching with subtitles and she loves cats and dogs equally.